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My Turn: What we can do to protect our children’s right to clean air

Last modified: 10/23/2015 12:49:11 AM
The enormity of climate change can seem overwhelming and even abstract. When confronted with melting Arctic glaciers, dried-up water basins and vicious storms, many of us have a hard time connecting these otherworldly scenes with our daily lives.

It can be difficult to appreciate how climate change will impact our immediate futures. Most New Hampshire residents probably won’t see the ridge of a glacier cascade into the Arctic Ocean or worry about surviving the winds and flooding of a Category 5 hurricane.

But the truth is that we should all be concerned about climate change, because it’s already impacting our daily lives – and it’s only going to get worse.

New Hampshire families are vulnerable to climate-related health threats from worsening air quality, extreme heat and precipitation, and greater exposure to dangerous diseases. The changing climate affects our children’s everyday lives – from the food they eat to the environment they play in. Air pollution is a well-known contributor to chronic respiratory diseases, and a trigger for asthma attacks. Across America, the rate of asthma cases has doubled, and New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of adult asthma in the country.

The rising global temperatures have also given deer ticks a more sustainable habit here in the Granite State. Cases of Lyme disease nationwide have doubled since 1991. New Hampshire happens to be the state where this potentially devastating tick-borne disease is most common.

The science of climate change and its impact on health are settled science – and well supported in the scientific, medical and public health communities. We need to reverse this course for the safety of current and future generations.

The desire to see our children grow up happy and healthy is universal. It is part of our responsibility as parents (and grandparents) to protect our children’s future and allow them to inherit a clean and healthy planet. Sometimes being a good parent means being an active citizen.

We simply can’t ignore the impacts of a changing climate on New Hampshire families. That is why we must take action now to ensure a healthy climate for our children and grandchildren and protect our children’s right to clean air.

Fortunately, there are immediate steps we can take to help our children.

We must transition away from coal, oil and other fossil fuels that poison our environment and our bodies. The technologies to do so are readily – and cheaply – available. With a determined effort to reform our national energy policies, we can build a clean energy future, power a 21st-century economy and protect the well-being of our families. Converting our national energy infrastructure won’t be easy, and it will require support and action from every level of government, from Concord to Washington, D.C. To that end, we must encourage our leaders to support America’s Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever national limit on carbon dioxide emissions.

There are many reasons to fight climate change – including strong economic incentives to shift toward clean energy – but none matters more for the future of our communities than the health and well-being of our kids.

We have the power and ability to lessen – or even reverse – the impacts of climate change, but we need the political will to make that happen. We must hold our leaders accountable and ask them to take action to protect our children’s right to clean air.

(Rebecca Whitley is the New Hampshire field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of moms and dads united against air pollution.)


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